His dark face was supposedly from suntan from lifelong outdoor charity work (one of many versions). The nose-dropping legend of this statue actually abounds. It is a warning sign that appears whenever there is an impending disaster. The most famous episode was the earthquake in 1867 (on the 23rd day, 11th month, lunar calendar) that had leveled 石門Shi-men (north of Danshui) yet spared all residents. They happened to be parading 清水祖師's statue in an open field when the nose detached and the ground shook soon after.
The nose piece can only be re-attached by using ashes from burned incense mixed with water [see close-up above]. And no amount of human force can detach the nose. During the Japanese rule, the town folks worrying about an imminent epidemic had held a pre-emptive parade for 清水祖師 to patrol and bless Danshui. It was in violation of the Shindoism only law at that time, so the procession was halted by police chief 佐藤金丸. This was when the nose miraculously dropped. After re-attaching it, Sato was challenged to yank it off. He couldn't with all his might, the parade was therefore allowed to continue. Sato's successor 清水勉治 was also taught the same lesson. Cynics might argue that these two policemen were simply humoring Danshui-ren - to avoid a popular uprising. We of course know better.
During the Sino-French war when the French came to invade Danshui, 清水祖師 together with MaZu, Guanyin and Royal Lord Su, divinely intervened. For which, a wooden plaque "功資拯濟" was granted by Emperor Guan-Xu. To house this royal gift, a new temple must be built, so the statue of 清水祖師 was temporarily moved to the 清水祖師廟 in 艋舺 (Manga, now Wanhua). Unfortunately, the folks in Manga later refused to return the statue, even fabricated a duplicate to swindle Danshui-ren. These had resulted in lawsuits during the Japanese era. It was eventually decreed that the two towns settle through time-sharing. However, after the war, Danshui-ren discovered that the shared statue was again a fake.
Historically, Danshui-ren were in mutually beneficial collaboration with people from Manga. The town history, however, had also recorded disdainfully that during the Sino-French war, a bunch of unruly Manga youth came and attacked Christians in Danshui. Dr George Leslie Mackay and his family had to flee to Hongkong as a result.
The stories of 清水祖師 are still growing even today. The most recent one was about an architect commissioned for a renovation project. He arrived at the temple with blueprints in hand late one night for a meeting with the caretakers, only to find that all the gates were locked shut. After knocking on the doors, a booming voice inside told him to slip the blueprints under the doors. He did so unsuspectingly and found out on the next day that no living person was at the temple since the previous evening.
[Above: Two more-recently added ishidoros guard the entry to the temple, replacing two stone lions from the olden days.]
For many young Danshui-ren drafted to serve in the military, wearing magic spells available from the temple is a must. At least one kid credits his survival from a bad accident to the protection by 清水祖師.
Every year on the 6th Day of the 5th Month, lunar calendar, Danshui celebrates 清水祖師's re-designated birthday (it should really be the 6th Day of the 1st Month - minor details really). This is also a great excuse for Danshui families and friends to get together and have a feast.
Mark that on your calendar and come to join the festivities and witness one of the most enduring legends in northern Taiwan: